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'In the Know' satire show skewers NPR and all things liberal

Lauren Caspian, voiced by Zach Woods, interviews Jonathan Van Ness. (Courtesy of Peacock)
Lauren Caspian, voiced by Zach Woods, interviews Jonathan Van Ness. (Courtesy of Peacock)

In the new satirical TV show “In The Know,’ main character Lauren Caspian hosts a popular public radio show, not unlike Here & Now.

Caspian — voiced by Zach Woods who created the show with Mike Judge and Brandon Gardner — is a hapless, politically correct, overly polite, personified sweater vest. Half stop-gap animation, half real-life interviews with celebrities, “In The Know” satirizes NPR and its hosts.

“[Caspian] is a Frankenstein monster,” Woods says, “made up of pieces of Terry Gross, Ezra Klein, Malcolm Gladwell, Ira Glass, Michael Barbaro, and me and [Gardner].”

Watch on YouTube.

When Caspian talks with Black comedian Nicole Byer about Bop-It, Byer describes the color of the hand-held game as a ‘black thing.’ Caspian understands that to mean the game is unique to the Black community, and earnestly says, “I would never deign to enter into that cultural space unless invited.”

He also spells ‘women’ as ‘womyn’ to be more inclusive.

Even though “In The Know” plays off real-life NPR shows and hosts, Woods says he and fellow creators aimed to critique white liberalism as a whole.

“We don’t feel that we are separate from the characters we’re depicting,” Woods says. “I think we’re using NPR kind of as a framing device for satire pointed at people like [Gardner] and I who are these hypocrites, basically. There’s a kind of performative or maybe even a sincere progressivism that isn’t really carried out.”

A producer character named Fabian, voiced by Caitlin Reilly, hosts a podcast called “Black Lives Matter More.” She and Caspian get into a fight over the correct descriptor for the man living in the radio station: ‘unhoused person,’ as Caspian says, or ‘person currently without housing,’ as Fabian insists.

“It just seems sort of easy and reductive to create a punching bag that’s just a collection of stereotypes,” Woods says. “What we’ve tried to do with [Fabian] is to have her be this punitive, very controlling presence in one way, then in the other way, be someone who has actually been disregarded and dismissed that sort of explains some of why she feels so armored.”

Though the storylines between host Caspian and his colleagues are scripted and animated, the interviews with celebrities wholly aren’t.

“The only scripted interview is the one between Fabian … doing a pre-interview with Jorge Masvidal, the MMA fighter because we had a specific story idea for that,” creator Gardner says. “Otherwise, how all the interviews work is is I hop on first on Zoom to just ask them to please treat it like a normal NPR interview.”

The resulting interactions are hilarious. When Caspian talks with Mike Tyson, he asks, “Did you ever think in the middle of a bout, I wish I could just look my opponent in the eye and say, ‘I am enough’”? Tyson responds: “I do that when I smash his face.”

Parody of NPR isn’t new; take the recurring Saturday Night Live sketch “NPR’s Delicious Dish,” which mocks completely repressed NPR hosts as an example. But Woods and Gardner admit that while they’re throwing a lot of jabs at NPR, it comes from a place of appreciation for public radio.

“I love it. It’s valuable. And I rely on it,” Woods says. “Maybe it’s like the overeducated cockroach in the apocalypse, which you just cannot kill.”


Karyn Miller-Medzon produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Todd MundtGrace Griffin adapted it for the web.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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